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Callaway v. Shelton

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 28, 2014

STEVE SHELTON, et al., Defendants.


THOMAS M. COFFIN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections, filed a complaint alleging that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying him facial reconstructive surgery so that he can be fitted for dentures. Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief. Defendants now move for summary judgment (#123).

The facts giving rise to plaintiff's claims are set forth in the parties' briefs and supporting documents and need not be repeated in detail. In short, prior to being admitted to ODOC, plaintiff shot himself in the jaw in a suicide attempt and underwent extensive facial reconstructive surgery. Additional surgeries were planned but did not take place because plaintiff lost his coverage under the Oregon Health Plan upon his incarceration. Upon his admission to ODOC, on December 11, 2008, plaintiff was seen by medical staff and given a soft food diet due to his medical condition.

In April, 2009, plaintiff requested to be provided with dentures and was seen by Dr. Harrell at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. Based on his opinion that dentures might not be able to be fabricated for plaintiff in his current condition, Dr. Harrell referred the matter to the Therapeutic Level of Care Committee (TLCC).[1] The TLCC approved the referral of plaintiff to a specialist for evaluation.

In June, 2009, plaintiff was examined by Dr. James Eyre, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

In June, 2009, the TLCC reconvened to consider plaintiff's condition in light of Dr. Eyre's diagnosis and findings. The TLCC denied plaintiff's request for facial reconstructive surgery and dentures stating:

[i]t is impossible to manufacture dental prostheses for this patient with the facial structures in the present condition. ODOC generally does not provide facial reconstructive surgery, which is considered mainly for cosmetic purposes.

Affidavit of Steven Shelton, M.D. (#125) ¶ 41.

Plaintiff's condition was reviewed again by the TLCC in January, 2010, and it affirmed its previous decision denying facial reconstructive surgery because it was "mainly for cosmetic purposes." Id. att. 5 at p. 151.

Absent a significant change in plaintiff's condition, ODOC will not provide plaintiff with reconstructive surgery in the future. Id. at ¶ 47.

Plaintiff has no teeth, no lower gum line and what is left of his upper gum line does not touch what remains of his jawline. Both upper and lower chewing surfaces are distorted and he only has a partial tongue. He has an approximately one centimeter oral opening. Eyre Declaration (#126) ¶ 7. Plaintiff cannot chew solid food and cannot wear dentures. It is likely that he could be fitted for dentures but only after extensive, costly surgical intervention. Id., p. ¶¶ 8, 9.

Plaintiff alleges that he suffers a host of medical problems because of his inability to chew, including digestive problems, constipation, diarrhea, painful bleeding hemorrhoids, bloody stool, an anal tear, difficulty urinating, severe choking and vomiting and painful cuts and scrapes inside his mouth, back pain and mental and emotional trauma. Plaintiff further alleges that due to his inability to chew he is unable to maintain a sufficient caloric and nutritional intake necessary to maintain his health and has lost weight.

Defendants now move for summary judgment alleging:

First, plaintiff cannot establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he has a serious medical need for facial reconstructive surgery so that he may be fitted for dentures or that any of the individually-named defendants were deliberately indifferent to that need when they denied it. Second, plaintiff's ADA claim fails to state a claim for relief. Third, plaintiff's equal protection claim fails to state a claim for relief. Fourth, defendants are qualifiedly immune from damages. Finally, plaintiff cannot establish that he is entitled to injunctive relief. Accordingly, this Court should grant defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss plaintiff's claims with prejudice.

Motion for Summary Judgment (#123) p. 1-2.

Eighth Amendment:

Plaintiff alleges that defendants' refusal to provide him with facial reconstructive surgery and dentures violates his right under the Eighth Amendment to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

In order to prevail on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim that medical treatment has been denied or inadequately rendered, a prisoner must establish that there has been a "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." Estell v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000); see also, Clements v. Gomez , 298 F.3d 898, 904 (9th Cir. 2002).

A determination of "deliberate indifference" requires an examination of two elements: 1.) The seriousness of the prisoner's medical needs, and 2.) The nature of the defendant's response. McGuckin v. Smith , 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992) (overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller , 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997). To find deliberate indifference, "[a] defendant must ...

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